The ballad ends on the high chest C beloved of tenors, like the high chestnote that ended Simon Dedalus’s rendition of “M’appari” in the Sirens episode of Ulysses (Ulysses 11.742). The poisonous rumour is now everywhere, all over Ireland. We are reminded, as we were at the beginning of the previous chapter, that this is all an attempt at reconstructing something whose truth is buried in the distant past. Though we may find that it’s replayed and restaged again some time in the future (and “the mime mumming the mick and his nick miming their maggies” on 48.10-11 foreshadows The Mime of Mick, Nick and the Maggies in chapter II.1, 219.18-19), all those who originally heard or spread the rumour are now long since gone. There is no single version of what happened to Hosty, now “Osti-Fosti” (48.19-24). A’Hara (O’Mara, 40.16) became a mercenary and perished on the battlefield (49.02-15), and might even have been the Buckley who will shoot the Russian general in II.3 (49.08-09). Paul Horan (Peter Cloran, 40.16) may have ended up in a mental hospital (49.15-21). Sordid Sam (Treacle Tom, 39.16 ff) seems to have been beaten to death on the streets, perhaps by the Norwegian captain of II.3 (49.21-50.05). On the other hand, he might have been hanged (“dropt neck fust,” 49.32), with all the effects that the “distinguished scientist Herr Professor Luitpold Blumenduft” noted in the “Cyclops” chapter of Ulysses (U 468-78, and FW 50.02-04). Langley, the “frusker” (50.06; Frisky Shorty, 39.18), seems just to have disappeared without trace. Father San Browne, the “overspoiled priest” (38.25-26) to whom the Cad’s wife first told what she’d heard from her husband, was “semiprivately convicted of malpractices” (50.28-29).
[We may perhaps detect a certain displaced grim satisfaction for the sleeper in all this. Even though the rumours are “from tubb to buttom all falsetissues,” but nevertheless oddly ineffective, “antilibellous and nonactionable,” in their “whole wholume” (48.17-19), all who have taken part in spreading them seem to have met unpleasant fates, about which there’s more than a hint of gloating. Sordid Sam’s last thoughts as he is kicked in the head are a displaced expression of this: “Me drames … has come through!”]
It would appear to be a rainy evening outside, and it keeps intruding here, into sleep. We have yet another reminder of how difficult it is to tell all of these personages apart and distinguish who did what, since “the shape of the average human cloudyphiz … frequently altered its ego with the possing of the showers” (50.36-51.02): Howth wreathed in clouds. It might be “a slopperish matter, given the wet and low visibility” (51.03-05), but when we’re told in this paragraph of a man who is stopped by three truant schoolboys in wet overcoats and asked to tell them the “haardly creditable edventyres of the Haberdasher, the two Curchies and the three Enkelchums” (51.14-15), we can guess that he too may be HCE. Time might have wrought its changes on his face, and he might have grown a beard for anonymity, but the clustering of the trigrams and the characteristic seven items of clothing suggest his identity (51.06-08: there’s a comma missing between “stock” and “lavaleer,” corrected in Rose’s edition and noted in Henkes and Bindervoet’s variants for the Oxford World’s Classics edition). The very scene is a replay of the original, and of the Museyroom battle, with the father accosted by the three sons.
This encounter, though, works also as a revision of the earlier disastrous meeting with the Cad (35.01-36.34). It replays it as l’esprit d’escalier, the perfect retort you think of only once the moment you could use it has passed. Instead of a panic-stricken and stammering HCE blurting out a truth the Cad had never suspected, let alone asked for, we have a calm and collected HCE giving a respectful answer to the “triad of precoxious scaremakers” who are out to make trouble (52.13-15). The timepiece and the pipe from the earlier episode are here again, but this time they’re both in HCE’s possession. And while in the earlier episode HCE was terrified of an armed holdup, now he’s the one with the gun, with which he’s calmly and “with Anny Oakley deadliness” (52.01) picking off a row of empty stout bottles, as a reminder of just who has the upper hand here. The story he tells of “the Compassionate,” “Our Farfar and Arthor of our doyne” (52.13, 16-17) is a foreshadowing of what will become the final grandiloquent and self-aggrandizing testimony of the sleeping giant called up by the four old men in the séance on Howth (532.06-554).
We’ve heard something of this story, so now let’s see something of it, even if it is at a distance. This paragraph repeats the previous one: again, there are the seven items of clothing that identify HCE (52.24-28), and the trigram (52.34), but this time there is an emphasis on sight rather than sound. We also have the antagonism between the two brothers that will provide much of the story of the later chapters, with that suggestion of Cain and Abel in the opening sentence, “Television kills telephony in brothers’ broil” (52.18)—phrased, we note, in the predominantly visual form of a newspaper headline. One the one hand, there’s the handsome and eloquent Shaun, and on the other the shortsighted phony Shem. Shem is the Penman, who writes the letter that may be the Wake itself. Shaun is the Post, the one who delivers it, even if this involves insolently “stealing his thunder” (52.31)—”The silence of that stilling!” (52.36). Here we have HCE inviting us to see, in stolen words, for this—
It scenes like a landscape from Wildu Picturescu or some seem on some dimb Arras, dumb as Mum’s mutyness, this mimage of the seventyseventh kusin of kristansen is odable to os across the wineless Ere no oedor mere eerie nor liss potent of suggestion than in the tales of the tingmount. (53.06)
—is a direct steal from the end of the fourth chapter of A Portrait of the Artist, where Stephen is heading towards the shore and his vision of the bird-girl:
Like a scene on some vague arras, old as man’s weariness, the image of the seventh city of Christendom was visible to him across the timeless air, no older nor more weary nor less patient of subjection than in the days of the thingmote. (Portrait 181)
The passage even notes the theft: (“Prigged!”) (53.06). The added reference to Wilde is a reminder that this flattering picture, like Dorian Gray’s—and like all the moments of HCE’s self-satisfaction in the Wake—may just be the blind for a continuing corruption.
This flattering version of the story, this “humphriad” (53.09) is told “there oftafter” (53.07)—or so we are told, in this far from disinterested account which, as we have seen, “consisted chiefly of the cheerio” (52.34). We are jogging along shoulder-to-shoulder in a coach, on what will be revealed in a couple of pages’ time to be a tour of the many sites that figure in what is by now a legend, various versions of which are circulating in the coach. (The coach trip presumably comes as a package with the Museyroom tour of 8.09-10.23.) The tone is a familiar and slightly saccharine pastoral, at “the angelus hour,” and accompanied by “the soft belling of the fallow deers” (53.17, 18). In this setting a swaggering HCE triumphantly offers the Cad a cigar which (unlike Freud’s) may not be just a cigar: “pluggy well suck that brown boyo, my son, and spend a whole half hour in Havana” (53.25-26). Another replay again has the obsequious Cad wishing HCE all he can eat, in an episode that presumably takes place in the great man’s pub (“Eagle Cock Hostel,” 53.28).
Although all of this is lost, these images (“rerembrandtsers,” 54.02) link us to that past. Are all these personages dead, “ended or sleeping soundlessly”? (54.05). We are asked both to see (54.01) and to hear (“Intendite!“, a demand for attention, but also entendre, to hear and understand).
We seem to be able to hear elements of the story even in the macaronic hubbub of a crowd of voices, all of it at sixes and sevens (“like sixes and seventies”) but nevertheless “as eversure as Halley’s comet” (54.07-08)—which has a period of 76 years.
[In many ways, Finnegans Wake acts out one of the functions of the comet as dominant symbol in the “Ithaca” chapter of Ulysses, according to the Gilbert schema. There, in that chapter where the very possibility of narrative closure is such an acute question, the comet’s two possible orbits represent the options. On the one hand, there are comets like Halley’s, with an elliptical orbit. It may take many years, but they return. Others, though, may have a parabolic orbit; caught by the sun’s gravity well in their trajectories across interstellar space, they swing by the sun once, only to disappear again, forever beyond the solar system. How do we tell which is which on a single observation? Will this story resolve in some sense, or will it not? “Ithaca” catches it beautifully:
once in the summer of 1898 he (Bloom) had marked a florin (2/-) with three notches on the milled edge and tendered it in payment of an account due to and received by J. and T. Davy, family grocers, 1 Charlemont Mall, Grand Canal, for circulation on the waters of civic finance, for possible, circuitous or direct, return.
Had Bloom’s coin returned?
Never. (U 17.980-84, 88-89)
But it may, of course, be in his change at the pork butcher’s the next morning.]
We can even hear the voice of HCE (“Mass Travener,” master taverner) on the radio (“at the mike again,” 54.21-22), advertising the quality of his wares, which are as straight as the Wellington monument (54.28). If we can gauge his guilt by his propensity to stutter, we have not only his claim to be “ohoh open” (54.28), but a massive interruption in the middle of the word “gllll…lobe,” in which a parenthesis describing his anxious perspiration develops two further internal parentheses of its own before the word can finish:
my guesthouse and cowhaendel credits will immediately stand ohoh open as straight as that neighbouring monument’s fabrication before the hygienic gllll
(this was where the reverent sabboth and bottlebreaker with firbalk forthstretched touched upon his tricoloured boater, which he uplifted by its pickledhoopy
(he gave Stetson one and a penny for it)
whileas oleaginosity of ancestralolosis sgocciolated down the both pendencies of his mutsohito liptails
(Sencapetulo, a more modestuous conciliabulite never curled a tom pocketmouth),
cordially inwiting the adullescence who he was wising up to do in like manner what all did so as he was able to add)
lobe before the Great Schoolmaster’s. (I tell you no story.) Smile! (54.27-55.02)
Once the word’s completed, that last parenthesis (“I tell you no story.”) even interrupts the sense of the final phrase (“before the Great Schoolmaster’s smile”) to make an avowal of honesty, with God himself called to bear witness.
Just as HCE’s stammer and repetitions undermine his assurances, so too do does the narrative’s insistence that all this is in the past get undermined by the sheer repetition. It’s as though in this chapter there can never have been too many assurances that “The house of Atreox is fallen indeedust” (55.03), because no matter how often one says it, what’s dead never just disappears: “deeds bounds going arise again” (55.05), so “the scene, refreshed, reroused, was never to be forgotten” (55.10-11). It gets rehearsed yet again many years later in the sleeping car of a trans-Hibernian train, by one of a band of “factferreters” (55.13), that group of tourists we recently saw “jauntyjogging, on an Irish visavis” (53.07), who are as fascinated by what they are hearing as they are by the spectacle outside the windows. It’s as if for a moment the Wake includes in itself a picture of its own readership, imagining yet another version of HCE (who is this time pointing to the Wellington monument, the very memorial of his guilt, with a look of resignation on his face).
To complicate things, the teller would himself seem to be yet another avatar of HCE, marked as he is by the repeated trigram (55.11, 13) and the seven items of clothing (55.14-16). It’s as if HCE is not so much the object of investigation as its product, or rather the very process of investigation itself. So the “I” of this sleeper is not an authentic kernel of selfhood, something one finds, finally and with relief, as having been there all along under the layers of sleep and unconsciousness, guilt and evasion: “I am this.” It’s instead an incessant questioning, a “What am I?” that necessarily remains without resolution.
[Three points, briefly. There will be occasion to return to them.
1. Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, those two psychoanalysts sui generis, suggest in the Wolf Man’s Magic Word that the primal scene doesn’t have the status of an event (“I saw this”) so much as an interrogation, a trial, that is in so many ways the crystallization of the infant’s incomprehension of the world as it forms: “What did I see? What does it mean? What am I to make of it? What am I expected to make of it?” The next chapter, I.4, will launch us into a trial; I.5 will be an interrogation of one of the chief documents, one that might determine HCE’s guilt or innocence, the letter scratched up by the hen; I.6 will be an interrogation of another sort, a quiz on all the main personages of the story. Beyond that, III.4 will stage the primal scene itself: “What was thaas?” (555.01).
2. One of the consequences of Descartes’s famous thought-experiment in the first Meditation is that the cogito, that nugget of apodictic certainty I arrive at after even the most thoroughgoing doubt, is necessarily empty. I can doubt any of the contents of my thought as ruses put there by an evil spirit in order to confound me, but the one thing I cannot doubt in all of that is the bare fact that I think. Not I think this, or I think that—all of which, like any of the stories we’ve heard about HCE, might be no more than delusions—but just that empty fact of thinking. The cogito, the subject, is an empty I think. Everything else is just accoutrements, as easily mutable and able to be shrugged off as those seven ever-shifting items of clothing (his “latitudinous baver with puggaree behind, … his fourinhand bow, his elbaroom surtout, the refaced unmentionables of gingerine hue, the stateslate umbrella, …” (52.23-26)), and the unstoppable plethora of stories about avatars of the silent and unseen sleeper, about HCE, or about someone who may be or maybe just looks like HCE. There’s something disingenuous or misleading about all of these, as they may, just may, all be ruses set to deceive, or blinds to deflect our attention away from something that never quite gets said or admitted, but which we glimpse only as the sheer unrelenting pressure that’s powering these endless repetitions. They’re misleading even when—or perhaps that’s especially when—we have the apparent honesty of confession: what better way to hide a deception than under truth itself? Whatever the content of what I say, I can’t eliminate the possibility that I may be deceiving myself with it first of all. With the Wake, we can no longer distinguish between the cogito and the malin genie, the evil spirit of deception.
3. Hence Jacques Lacan’s twist on Descartes, adding Freud’s observation that the unconscious knows nothing of contradiction, and the formalisation of non-Aristotelian logics that begins with Frege and Russell. The cogito is not just an empty set, but structured by the torsions of paradox. Its motif is not the Delphic “Know thyself,” but the Cretan liar’s “I am lying.” That will develop in a few paragraphs’ time.]
The traveller, the reader of these “semisigns of his zooteac” (56.23), smiles longingly at the thought of the inn where refreshments will be awaiting the party. As the monument suggests we’re passing by or through the Phoenix Park, that inn’s likely to be HCE’s in Chapelizod.
But what might have been the cause of that smile? Who is this person? Who or what is the “formal cause” (56.31) behind all this? Where are we? The rain that has been drizzelling down throughout this chapter seems to have levelled all the landmarks that the various reigns of order and power have put in place, but we still seem to be able to “hear the pointers and … gauge their compass” (57.01-02). We still seem to be able to make out the “forefarther,” the “two peaches,” and the three soldiers (“Ming, Ching and Shunny”) (57.04-05). By this time, they hardly seem to be functioning as characters, though, or even as archetypes, but as scarcely more than a repeating pattern—1, 2, 3—like that of the trigram HCE or the seven items of clothing. We might look for some sort of ghostly presence (“the hope of the ghouly ghost”), perhaps even something divine to anchor it all, “but his hantitat hies not here” (57.06-07): if a habitat is the place where something dwells, here we don’t even have a place that’s haunted.
Mamlujo, the four old men from the pub (as well as the four provinces of Ireland and the four evangelists), give their answers to that multiple set of questions that opened the paragraph. Each one begins with “I”, which is several things all at once:
- In one sense, it doesn’t waste a moment’s time, but gives the answer to the question immediately: “I,” first-person pronoun, is the very word for the subject, the one speaking, the formal cause.
- What’s more, it seems to do this before the answer’s even started, in the preliminary throat-clearing that will make a space for the answer when it does come, a self-identification: “I, says Armagh” (57.08): I, Matthew Gregory from Armagh in Ulster in the north, am the one who is speaking [or Marcus Lyons from Clonakilty in Munster in the south, or Luke Tarpey from Deansgrange in Leinster in the east, or Johnny MacDougall from Barna in Connaught in the west].
- As such, it’s an affirmation: aye. But it’s not an affirmation of any content, of anything that might be said following that affirmation. It’s just an affirmation of the bare, empty act of speaking: aye, yes, I’m here, I’m speaking.
What they actually say seems to do little more than repeat those senses: affirmation (“a’m proud o’it”), perhaps even a defiance in the face of nonsense (“whatabout it?”), a “say nothing,” and a “God help us!”, rounded off by their donkey’s laughter (“Hee haw!” (57.08-10) and yet another affirmation of the fall that seems this time to be structured around the two trigrams, where the letters of HCE are scattered and coiled around those of ALP: “Before he fell hill he filled heaven: a stream, alplapping streamlet, coyly coiled um [Hum, Humphrey, HCE], cool of her curls” (57.10-12).
The opening sentence here is almost emblematic of the Wake‘s procedures so far, and of the impossibility of straightening everything out into a single incontrovertible and authoritative set of events:
Thus the unfacts, did we possess them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude, the evidencegivers by legpoll too untrustworthy irreperible where his adjugers are semmingly freak threes but his judicandees plainly minus twos. (57.17-19)
We don’t have facts, we have unfacts. These would presumably be something other than statements we know to be false, as simple known falsehood would in itself tell us something quite definite. Remember those islands we find in logical puzzles, inhabited by two races of people, one of which always tells the truth, the other of which always lies. As the lie (at least in these archipelagos) is simply the inversion of the truth, and is just as determined by the truth as anything the truthteller may say, there is really only one race here, and one language with two dialects. They’re all truthtellers, and you can always get the truth from anyone you meet at the crossroads. As John Forrester points out in his Truth Games: Lies, Money, and Psychoanalysis (Cambridge Mass.: Harvard UP, 1997: 48-49), the figure who would really disturb this economy is not the liar, but the one who has no allegiance to truth: the bullshitter. The bullshitter is not just someone who mixes lies and truths, so that truth would have to be determined strictly on a case-by-case basis. The twist goes a bit further: the bullshitter is the one for whom lies and truth can’t be separated within the one utterance, as the condition of saying anything at all, and for whom a certain falsity or dissemblance is the very cost of truth, and truth stands to inhabit the lie in ways that go beyond even the speaker’s calculation. In a word, the bullshitter is the one who says, “I am lying,” and the bullshitter’s island is Crete.
So: the unfacts, did we possess them. But we don’t. Everything that follows on from this in the rest of the sentence has just been wiped out before it’s even been stated. We have no basis at all for making the claims that follow about how many of these unfacts there might be or the probity of the witnesses, because we don’t possess those unfacts to begin with. Even if we did, they’d be unfacts, bullshit; not so much a legitimate poll as a legpull. What would even a legitimate poll, a “legpoll” be, if not a gathering-together of stories, a pile of bullshit, a sort of middenheap out of which a letter or two might some day be scratched? The very form of the sentence seems to be an elaboration of the Cretan liar paradox. That the unfacts (which we do not have) are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude is itself offered as a statement of certitude. But if they’re too few to warrant it, this very statement itself lacks certitude, so we can no longer say (with certitude) that they’re too few to warrant our certitude. The possibility of their leading, somehow, somewhere, to certitude, is no longer out of the question. The ascertaining of the truth of the matter comes back as the merest possibility to haunt this unwinding doubt, no matter how “untrustworthily irreperible” (Italian for undiscoverable) these bullshitters of evidencegivers might be.
[It’s a commonplace in literary criticism to speak of metafiction—those moments at which a fiction reminds us that this is after all just a fiction—as being in some way a superior knowledge or self-awareness that some privileged types of fiction have of their own status. Where plain vanilla fictions are taken to ignore their own fictionality in place of some sort of immersion in illusion, metafictions announce and flaunt their own artifice.
There are, I think, a number of problems with this. Metafiction is not so much a type of fiction (let alone a particularly enlightened one) as something all fiction does, as a condition of its being fiction. It’s what the word “Fiction” sitting above the barcode on the back cover says: you are about to read a fiction. You know that before you start, and few readers make the category error of taking a work of fiction for fact. The framework of fictionality is necessary to the text’s effects: things that are enjoyable, exhilarating and moving in a fiction may be distressing or disgusting if we were to read them as no more than fact. It would, for example, be difficult to watch a Tarantino film with pleasure under the assumption that it was a fly-on-the-wall documentation of real events. Metafiction, as a category describing some sorts of fiction and not others, doesn’t exist, except as a redundant synonym for fiction itself. They’re all metafiction. If they weren’t metafictional, they wouldn’t be fictional in the first place. What fiction does, as its founding act as it were, is make a Cretan liar statement: I am fictional. Fiction, in a word—and I’m using the word in Forrester’s very useful sense of something that is not governed by or owe allegiance to truth—is bullshit. That’s not to say that it has no relation to truth; on the contrary, it’s to name that relation with some precision. Truth inhabits the non-factual too.
If there’s something naïve about dividing fiction up into knowing texts and ignorant ones, there’s also something self-congratulatory about it. Some texts are content to rest in illusion, but other texts know themselves a little bit better than that; so we have also a story about two types of reader, those who know (and know they know) and those who don’t (and don’t know they don’t). It’s also disingenuous. The claim of metafiction is an apparently modest I know I’m not telling the truth: in it, it says, “I know quite well how huge a claim it would be to say I know the truth, and how easily others with a greater claim to it, or even the sheer complexity of the world or the random turns of events themselves, could make any claim of mine look foolish, so I’ll make a smaller claim: I may not know the truth, but at least I can say I know I don’t know it.” But isn’t this claim to no more than one’s own ignorance also in some way a larger claim, a claim to the superior (and cynical) wisdom of knowing that one cannot know, which is a wisdom that those who think they can say the truth about something would have in their ignorance forgotten? Cynicism presents itself as a safer claim, because it’s global (whatever it is, I know in advance and in principle that I can’t speak the truth about it, without any need to know more than that) and incontrovertible (a claim to knowledge may certainly be challenged, but is anyone ever likely to challenge my admission of ignorance?)
The interesting and fruitful questions about fiction come about, I’d argue, when we make a double reversal of metafiction’s claim. Instead of the classic disavowal of I know I’m not speaking the truth, it’s more a matter of I can never know when I am speaking the truth. Here we open up all sorts of slips and abysses, starting with the Freudian slip of the tongue or parapraxis that gives away more than I’d ever have intended. It’s not the defensive Don’t look for truth here, because there isn’t any, it’s all just fiction, but Truth is everywhere and nowhere in what follows, incalculable, endless and ineradicable—and sometimes full of nasty and disconcerting surprises. End of a rather long digression.]
“Nevertheless” (57.19) … Over the last few pages we’ve seen the Wake doing, again, something that seems to have been very characteristic of its dynamics and rhythms up to this point. It’s given us a murkiness in which, with great effort, we can make out number of possible stories, all of them somewhat similar if never quite the same, and a number of personages (ditto) to whom these things seem to be happening. Then, rather than cut through the fog to clarify the real state of affairs (what really happened in the Phoenix Park?), it muddies things still further to the point of dissolution. This is where we’ve just been, with those unfacts we don’t have anyway. And now, once again, just as it’s done several times before, at this acute moment of dissolution we don’t get a solution or a resolution, slowly building things up again to some sort of stability, so much as a shrug of the shoulders: nevertheless, even so, despite that, I know it’s not the case but still… And we’re back once more to the multiplicity of figures and tales, looking for clues. For all that (or perhaps because) the unfacts, did we possess them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude, we come back to facsimiles, likenesses, makeshifts: waxworks in “Madam’s Toshowus” which are reassuringly “largely more lifeliked” (57.20), portraits in the “notional gullery” (57.21), photographs of Victorian sentimentality (57.26-29).
And yet (nevertheless), there is one thing we can be certain of: that HCE, the “huge outlander,” came to trial, “bulked at the bar of a rota of tribunals in manor hall” (57.32-35). It’s the Wake‘s version of Descartes’ cogito once again: we might not be able to give credence to the content of any of the stories about him, but we can be sure of the bare fact that there were stories about him—and their incessant questions about what HCE might be are now inseparable from a trial. The bar before which he is made to appear is that of a court, of course, but also the bar of HCE’s own pub, his manor, where he might be “priest and king” (58.05) but has to face daily the gossip (“chithouse chat,” 57.34-35), real or suspected, about him. He is “sentenced pro tried with Jedburgh justice” (57.36). Jedburgh justice, as McHugh notes, comes from the Scottish town where, apparently, the practice was to hang first and try after. In a more banal and literal sense of “sentenced,” it’s also simply that HCE is much spoken about. So this very cloud of stories (real or suspected) is at one and the same time his trial and his sentencing, mortifying him and tearing him apart.
All of this is described in terms of The Golden Bough‘s more literal dismembering of the god king, and in a series of echoes that take us back to the first chapter and the scenes at Finnegan’s wake:
Longtong’s breach is fallen down, but Graunya’s spreed’s abroad. (58.10-11)
Grampupus is fallen down but granny sprids the boord. (7.08-09)
feel the Flucher’s bawls for the total of your flouts is not fit to fan his fettle, O! (58.11-13)
Tee the total of the fluid hang the twoddle of the fuddled, O! (6.28) [One of the many variations on the song, “Phil the Fluter’s Ball” …]
And of course all chimed din width the eatmost boviality. (58.14)
And the all gianed in with the shoutmost shoviality. (6.18-19) [… and another one.]
Swiping rums and beaunes and sherries and ciders and negus and citronnades too. (58.14-16)
There was plumbs and grumes and cherriffs and citherers and raiders and cinemen too. (6.17.18)
Oho, oho, Mester Begge, you’re about to be bagged in the bog again. (58.16-17)
Hahahaha, Mister Funn, you’re going to be fined again! (5.11-12)
And behind all these repetitions, “behind the jostling judgements of those, as all should owe, malrecapturable days,” and behind all the gossip the next paragraph is retell yet again, there looms up, as always, the “unforgettable treeshade” of our “messchef,” HCE (58.20-22).
This long paragraph is vox pop, a sampling of the gossip that is HCE’s “muertification and uxpiration and dumnation and annuhulation” (58.08-09). Many of those interviewed seem themselves to be versions of participants in the scandalous events: soldiers and sailors, actresses and prostitutes, pub staff and clientele.
- One of a group of three soldiers taking a walk in Montgomery Street (then part of Dublin’s red-light district) suggests that the first of the two women souped him (soup was a slang term for a brief for prosecution) by suggesting they go into a field. (58.23-30)
- Mrs F… A…, an up-and-coming actress (a vestpocket Sarah Siddons, as she’s been called) was interviewed in a West End beauty parlour. We see her flushed with beauty while recovering her “cartwheel chapot”: a chapeau is a hat, while a capote is a condom, and aha!—a parenthesis interrupts with the late realization of the bawdier meaning behind those earlier lines about “thimbles a baquets on lallance a talls mean” (59.06-07): those “larrons o’toolers clittering up and tombles a’buckets clottering down” (5.03-04). The actress wishes him a Christmas garland of flowers, as the world has been unkind to him, and (though comparisons may be odorous in this case) fondly remembers the spring flowers of his birthday and that wonderful night. (58.33-59.14)
- An “entychologist”—that is, an entomologist (just like Roland McHugh of the Annotations!) who studies insects (such as earwigs, for example); an etymologist, who studies words; and one who comes along by chance (Greek: tyche)—makes the passing remark to his dictaphone that “his propenomen is a properismenon,” which among other things suggests that his proper name is a real hive or swarm (smenos) of meanings.(59.15-16)
- A dustman at lunch, eating a meal that must surely have been on the menu at the Burton on 16 June 1904—liver and bacon with “stenk and kitteny phie”—declares that everyone at work thinks “he is a cemented brick, buck it all!” (59.16-24)
- A more than usually sober driver, who is hosing down what would seem to be the original Irish jaunting car of the song of that name, says that though in private life Earwicker might be “a just plain pink joint reformee,” everyone says that under the old legal system, the Brehon Laws, he has parliamentary honours. (59.24-29)
- Escoffier the chef says that if you want an omelette, you have to break eggs, and HCE is, after all, also Humpty Dumpty. In French, the passive voice is often rendered by the reflexive, so “Your hegg he must break himself.” “See, I crack, so, he sit in the poele, unbedimbt!” There it lies, in the frying pan (Fr: poêle) but also, oddly, intact and undimmed in the hen again (Fr: poule). (59.29-32)
- An older tennis player pants that “he kne[w] ho[w] har[d] [i]twa[s] to c[ol]lect infamatios”—that is, both information and calumnies—but another flannelled player climbed the wall and did the trespassing needed for that. Where the older player is a “fullblown Braddon” (Irish bradán, salmon), this other player is a “fresky troterella” (Italian diminutive, little trout), so we have once more the son’s part in the father’s downfall. (59.33-36)
- A railway barmaid expressed the view that it’s no use whistling when the horse has already peed, and that it would be a scarlet shame to put him in jail as that disreputable Mrs Siddons, the actress, has suggested, despite his being an orphan and in ill health. (59.36-60.08)
- Well done, Dublin! replies a Board of Trade official, with a chorus of swooning girls murmuring for his forgiveness. (60.08-11)
- Brian Lynsky, the “cub curser” (so presumably he’s still in training), gave a snappy comeback to say that “them two bitches ought to be leashed, canem!” (60.11-16)
- A would-be martyr, when grilled on the point, revealed the undoubted fact that as long as Sakya Muni, the Buddha, plays his mango tricks under the mistletoe (when he was young, maidens set to entertain the Buddha dropped on him from out of the mango tree), the fighting will continue. (60.16-22)
- A seventeen-year-old revivalist, Ida Wombwell, said about “the coincident of interfizzing with grenadines [she would seem to be an abstainer as well] and other respectable and disgusting peersons using the park: That perpendicular person is a brut! But a magnificent brut!” (60.22-26)
- A bookmaker, Danl Magrath, commented, “striving todie, hopening tomellow.” The phrase will be repeated at 172.24, as part of Shaun’s unflattering picture of his brother Shem. (60.26-29)
- The toreador El Caplan Buycout repeats the Cad’s muttered imprecation on meeting HCE in the Phoenix park (37.13-14): “We have meat two hourly … meet too ourly” (60.29-31)
- Dan Meiklejohn, the precentor, was proverbial and dogmatic in his assertion: “mutatus mutandus.” (60.31-33)
- Lord Dauran and Lady Morgan (to whom the phrase “Dear dirty Dublin” is generally attributed) took sides, changed their minds, listened to each other’s views, and changed their minds again. (60.33-35)
- Two drabs said the dirty Dubliners went too far, and too free. (60.35-61.01)
- When she had all the information about the case, Silvia Silence, the lisping girl detective, leaned back in her chair to ask: “Have you evew thought, wepowtew, that sheew gweatness was his twagedy?”—and suggested the fitting penalty under section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, the law under which Oscar Wilde was charged. (61.01-11)
- Jarley Jilke cites part of a song about Charles Dilke, the English Liberal MP whose political career came to an end with a well-publicised divorce case in 1885–another parallel between HCE and Parnell. (61.11-13)
- A naval rating, Meagher, interviewed at the conclusion of an encounter with two prostitutes (61.13-27), declares that HCE was to blame, but that he’d bet his bottom dollar there was something suspicious about those three soldiers.
This paragraph picks up on that last suggestion. Is it possible that “so diversified outrages … were planned and partly carried out against so staunch a covenanter” (61.30-32), even if we admit that we don’t know whether many of these events really took place, and that the stories sometimes come to us through witnesses who use the truth sparingly? HCE’s going to ground in Dublin merges here with the Buddha’s renunciation of his life of luxury, leaving his palace by night after changing clothes with a hunter (“changing clues with a baggermalster,” 62.02-03), with Mohammed’s flight from Mecca (the “hejirite” of 62.03), and with Joyce’s own flight “beyond the outraved gales of Atreeatic” (62.02) to Trieste (we recall that “the house of Atreox is fallen indeedust,” 55.03). Ireland rises against the scapegoat, “as were he made a curse for them … so they might convince him … of their proper sins” (62.17-18, 20-21), as “he or his or his care were subjected to the premier terror of Errorland” (62.24-25).
Once again, this paragraph picks up on where the previous one has been leading. As so often, the figures of the underworld stand for what can’t ever quite be said or admitted into the light of consciousness, and they abound in the first sentence here. Amenti is the Egyptian underworld, and mentir is the French verb to lie. In “reading our Amenti” (62.26), are we reading a lie or something without lies (a-mentir)? Is it somehow both, a lying dream (a lie in French is after all un mensonge, and un songe is a dream) in which, do what we may, the truth creeps through? No matter how sealed this chapter of the Book of the Dead, it may be all too clearly stating the unstated and unsayable in the only way it can, “going forth by black” (62.26-27).
So another story, which immediately after that warning we have to read as being again the same story. Its “one tall man, humping a suspicious parcel” (62.28-29) can only be Humphrey with the perpetual burden the previous sentence has placed on him. Returning home late, he’s waylaid by a man with a revolver: the weapon he was waving around with confidence and prowess only a few pages ago (51.36-52.06) is now turned against him, and the earlier fears that the Cad might be armed (35.21-29) are now realised. This is “an unknowable assailant (masked)”: not simply unknown, but in principle unknowable behind that mask. And yet, that’s a blind. We do know, as the sentence tells us immediately, without a pause, that this is an assailant “against whom he had been jealous over Lotta Crabtree or Pomona Evlyn” (62.32-34: I’m adopting Rose and O’Hanlon’s text here, omitting the comma before the two names). We also know, as the next sentence tells us, that this waylayer isn’t from the local area but from Little Britain. (Among other things, that’s a term for Brittany, so we have an echo of the Tristan story with the younger man usurping the older. With “crawsopper” and “aunt” (63.01, 04), we also have echoes of the sibling rivalry as it will emerge in the later story of the Ondt and the Gracehoper (413.16-419.10). HCE is already being overthrown by the sons.) The assailant demands to know what business his victim had with those women, but the victim throws the question back at him: it’s for me to know and you to find out.
But all this is “transparingly nontrue” (63.10): not just untrue, the opposite of true, but nontrue, which is not a matter of being true or false, and evades that framework just as the victim’s response has just this moment refused the terms the assailant demanded. In a word, to use Forrester’s precise term for it yet again, it’s bullshit. We don’t even know that the victim was a tall man: “His feet one is not a tall man, not at all, man” (63.10-11): six foot one isn’t tall. No such person. Is it all supposed to be in connection with two girls (and this time, we have two different names for them)? Was the assailant no more than a customer trying to get into the pub after hours? Is this what the victim himself was doing? It’s hard to separate the two here, as if HCE is his own worst enemy, and the characterisation of them throughout this passage as “fenders” (63.07, 63.11, 65.35) refuses to discriminates between offender and defender. Rather than being accosted by a would-be thief or assailant, was he actually found drunk after dark with a bottle in the doorway to his own pub, by the town guard?
That rings true, “parasoliloquisingly truetoned,” or at least on a first hearing (63.20). The victim seems to have made a drunken statement about how he’d had far to much to drink in an all-day pub crawl, and that he was only propping himself up on the gatestone (or perhaps urinating on it), with “purest peaceablest intentions” (63.29-30). But it also seems utterly unconvincing, for “how lamely hobbles the hoy of his then pseudojocax axplanation” (63.30-31, complete with giveaway stammer) when he claims he was a process server who was just trying to open a bottle of stout by hammering it against the gate to get the attention of the pub’s manservant Maurice Behan (Sackerson, the boots), who woke up and came downstairs half dressed and half asleep in his “obi ohne overclothes or choker” (64.02: wearing a sash, an obi, around his waist, but without overclothes or cravat; and again the stammer), to answer the noise at the door, the like of which he’d never heard in all the time he’d been there. It wasn’t remotely like the usual noise of drunkenness, which wouldn’t have woken him up, but more like the din of an invading army’s band, or the last days of Pompeii. It even woke up the daughter of the house, Issy, and then her mother, ALP: first it rains (“the young reine came down”) and then it pours (“the old liffopotamus started ploring over all the plains, as mud as she cud be,” 64.16-18). The uproar continued on into the early hours as “they were all night wasching the walters of, the weltering walters off. Whyte” (64.20-21, with its echoes of 216.05-06, which is the end of the Anna Livia episode and of the first book of the Wake, the book of the parents).
Right at the centre of this chapter, then, we have the occasion for the rain that has been falling softly throughout it, and that will end it.
“Just one moment” (64.22): a diversion, and an invitation to the movies: “roll away the reel world, the reel world, the reel world!” (64.25-26). There are plentiful hints of what the film will be, “a strawberry frolic” to take a girlfriend to, or two (“Snowwhite and Rosered,” 64.27)—and the “Fammfamm! Fammfamm!” with which the paragraph ends takes us back to the recorded sounds of Finnegan’s fall (“Hear? By the mausolime wall. Fimfim fimfim. With a grand funferall. Fumfum fumfum,” 13.14-16).
That “strawberry frolic” seems to be what we’re seeing on screen, too. After some ads (64.30-65.04), we take note, as the feature is about to start. No surprises: it’s about “an old geeser” and a young woman, “his skirt” (65.05, 06). He’s her sugar daddy, and she spends his money on clothes from fancy department stores (such as Peter Robinson of London, 65.15) and spends her time with younger men. All of that, of course, sounds very much like the line from Sweets of Sin that catches Bloom’s eye right at the very middle of Ulysses:
All the dollarbills her husband gave her were spent in the stores on wondrous gowns and costliest frillies. For him! For Raoul! (U 10.608-09)
She even calls him “Mr Hunker” (65.17), recalling the original name for Bloom in the short story that turned into the novel: Mr Hunter. “Grumpapar” (65.19) isn’t dismayed by this, as he has his “gel number two” (65.23), though ideally he’d love to “canoodle the two” of them (65.26). We have a musical finale, with all three canoodling in a canoe, and then the end, “Finny” (65.33), …
… with the sound of the film flapping in the gate of the projector, and (according to McHugh) World War I signalese for a full stop: “Ack, ack, ack” (65.34).
The two we’ve been following, victim and attacker, are in the same boat as all this drunken claptrap (65.34-35). There’s no use in speaking out against this sort of thing, as it goes on every day among all sorts of promiscuous individuals everywhere, in private and in public, all over the country and particularly abroad. To be continued. Brought to you by the “Federals’ Uniteds’ Transports’ Unions for Exultations’ of Triumphants’ Ecstasies” (66.09), whose acronym is a Latin obscenity.
After that diversion to the movies, the investigation continues. Rather than take us back to where we were midway through page 64, though, with the reprobate HCE back in the pub facing his wife’s wrath, we take a different tack. This paragraph turns to the letter, supposedly written by Anna Livia to exonerate her husband. We’ve had glimpses of it before, and will soon be spending much more time with it when it gets an entire chapter of its own (I.5). Joyce assigned it its own siglum in the notes and drafts: The shape suggests a container, a book, possibly a box. What it might contain, however, is not clear.
[Most, though not all, of the other sigla are connected with the members of the Earwicker family and other personages: the old woman Kate , who cleans the pub and guided us round the Willingdone museyroom earlier on (8.09-10.23), Sackerson the boots , Mamalujo , the twelve regulars in the pub  , the Maggies, or the Rainbow Girls . That the letter has its own siglum gives it a similar status. But the point to be made, I’d argue, is not that the letter becomes in effect a character. It’s quite the opposite: it’s that the effects of the multiplying, thronging, shifting personages of the Wake can be properly understood only in terms of the letter; not in terms of the psychology of an Earwicker, but in terms of .
Beginning with A. J. Greimas in the early 1970s, classic structural narratology will often make a distinction between actant and acteur. Actant refers to agential roles within the narrative (hero, villain, helper, opponent, etc.), while acteur refers to the name that at a given point comes to occupy that role. The terms slide around over one another: any given actant can come to be occupied by a number of different acteurs, and a given acteur can come to occupy a number of roles in succession, or even all at once. We may come, for example, to think that the villain of the piece is not who we thought it was, or find ourselves at one of those moments at which all those apparently familiar roles are shifting underfoot as we read. Among other things, it’s a description of an important dynamic in Finnegans Wake. Actantial roles are completely empty: they are defined purely in terms of their relationship to the other roles. The hero is a hero not because of the possession of a positive quality or characteristic we could call “heroism”: after all, the unheroic hero is a familiar commonplace, and well before Bloom’s mundane Ulysses. The hero is no more than a function in relation to the other equally empty roles. HCE is HCE not because he is guilty or innocent or stranded somewhere between these two, or vainglorious, cowering, haunted or defiant, but because HCE or even more barely, just plain , is HCE only because of a series of differing and non-equivalent relationships with other terms: one set of relations with ALP, , another different set of relations with , and yet another with , and , which in turn have a complex set of relations among themselves—and so on. All of these other matters (HCE’s guilt or innocence, comic bluster, uxoriousness, timidity, and so on) are characteristics and traits that belong, as such, strictly to the level of acteur—and they come thick and fast, in ways that are often thoroughly contradictory and utterly unstable, blurring the boundaries of any conceivable single realistic character. All of them are possible contents poured into that empty role in quick succession. We know we’re in the presence of HCE not because we see certain characteristics or personality traits that define him as a person, but first of all because of a number of purely empty formal devices: the trigram HCE in all of its permutations, some of them possibly even incomplete or buried within words and phrases; the sigla or , though more often in the drafts than in the finished product; the seven items of clothing, which vary on every occurrence, with the only constant that there are seven of them; and of course, the stammer, that mechanical, explosive repetition of sounds, where it doesn’t matter what’s being repeated, it’s the mere fact of the repetition that signals HCE.
HCE, then, functions as an empty actant that gets filled incessantly with a clamour of characteristics that the narrative is never quite sure belong together as the expression of one character. Over and over, the Wake asks if this or that figure we glimpse or hear about in yet another tale might be the man himself. If HCE is Here Comes Everybody, it’s not, as the Jungian-Campbellian approach would suggest, because at his heart is some sort of archetypal commonness we all share; it’s because HCE is an empty actant to be filled with all sorts of things, a mere letter, , or letters, H C E. And it doesn’t stop with HCE, for as we have seen, HCE is himself (itself?) the avatar (and not the first) of that deeply unconscious sleeping figure we glimpse dimly throughout the book: dormio.]
It might be, then (to get back to the paragraph at hand), that the very next morning will see the delivery of a “huge chain envelope” (66.13-14), addressed from “A Laughable Party” to “Hyde and Cheek, Edenberry, Dubblenn, WC” (66.16-18). We are not given any suggestion of what the contents might be, only the hope that it might be possible to make sense of it: “Will it bright upon us, nightle, and we plunging to our plight? Well, it might now, mircle, so it light” (66.21-23). We can’t even be sure what language it’s in (“lappish”? “Maggyar”? 66.18, 19). All of which sounds more than a little like the book we’re holding, Finnegans Wake. We’re given at best a description of what these “litterish fragments” (66.25-26) might look like, with their “seven diverse stages of ink, from blanchessance to lavandaiette, every pothook and pancrook bespeaking the wisherwife” (66.14-16). The presence of the laundry (Fr: blanchissage) and the washerwoman (Fr: lavandière, and “wisherwife”) only reinforces what the scattering of the ALP trigram has suggested as its source: chapter I.8 will give us the two washerwomen, themselves versions of ALP, washing the dirty Earwicker linen in public, and telling of the steps ALP took to quell the rumours. And instead of content and its delivery, we also get container within container: “will this kiribis pouch filled with litterish fragments lurk dormant in the paunch of that halpbrother of a herm, a pillarbox?” (66.25-27): an exoneration, perhaps, if it ever gets delivered by that pseudo-Hermes Shaun, in a letter () in an envelope () in a mailbag () in a pillarbox ().
In the very next paragraph after this, we are about to see HCE’s trial for all the various offences so far. Before that’s even started, though, in this paragraph there’s already ominously a coffin prepared and waiting for him, as if we already know what the outcome will have to be. He will spend some time in it in the next chapter, inert and awaiting awakening, which will thus perhaps mark the closest that HCE will come to that sleeping giant of which he is the avatar. Here, death and sleep run together in a memento mori as, for the “flash brides” and “upright grooms” together in their beds at night,
what else [if not a coffin] in this mortal world, now ours, when meet there night, mid their nackt [German: Mitternacht, midnight], me there naket, made their nought the hour strikes [with its echo of Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man”], would bring them rightcame back in the flesh, thumbs down [the crowd’s judgement on a defeated gladiator], to their orses and their hashes [ashes to ashes]. (67.03-06)
And so, to the trial and its proceedings.
Long Lally Tompkins, the special constable, is on the stand, a man with a chest of medals who reads scripture in his local church. He swears (like a Norwegian tailor, which may somewhat dint his reputation: in chapter II.3 we’ll meet a tailor, Kersse, and a Norwegian captain, between whom there’s no love lost) that he apprehended a man in a “butcherblue blouse” (63.16) with a bottle after dark, as we read a few pages ago. Tompkins describes him as “a right querrshnorrt of a man” (67.15) who has been “delivering some carcasses, mattonchepps and meatjutes” (67.16-17), giving us echoes of Mutt’s initial impression of Jute in I.1: “What a quhare sort of a mahan” (16.01). Delivery made, the man kicked the gate, perhaps also drunkenly hiccupping, and when the constable challenged him, replied with slurred telltale stammer, “I apop pie oath, Phillyps Captain!” (67.22). (The constable’s name changes come from a well-known pair of Dublin actors, Tom King and Phelps.) Mack Partland, for the defense, politely suggests to the constable that he’s “kneedeep in error” (67.23), as the man in question comes from one of the oldest families in the world. The constable’s face falls.
After that endorsement, the court turns to questioning the role and the probity of the women who are believed to have instigated these “camelback [i.e. humped, and thus Humphrey’s] excesses” (67.29). One of the two, Lupita Lorette, drank carbolic shortly afterwards (67.33-35). The other, Luperca Latouche, started selling her favours, and “sent many a poor pucker packing to perdition” (68.15-16). There’s an ALP trigram in each of these names, as well as several in the sentence in which they’re embedded. As always in this sleep tossed by uneasy bad conscience, ALP is not only the angel of her husband’s salvation, but also, in these multiple, incessant processes of disavowal, the one who is really to blame for his problems: “Houri of the coast of emerald, arrah of the lacessive poghue [the kiss that provokes] … did not she … again and again, ay, and again sfidare him [It. sfidare, to challenge, with the English dare embedded in it also, and the fid about to turn into the merciless teasing of a faithful dog], tease fido, eh tease fido, eh eh tease fido, … dug of a dog of a dgiaour, ye!” (68.11-18). We’re reminded of the prankquean, whose crime is to steal the lord’s very children from him and turn them against him (68.21-22, 21.05-23.15). HCE hears her commands, and is powerless to resist or even reply (“by the beer of his profit, he cannot answer,” 68.27-28).
HCE’s downfall is in this silence that’s so deep it’s even beyond memory, with neither “shaft nor stele” to mark its place (68.29) or show just how this “obseen” (68.33: this obscene unseen obverse other scene) “will ever attract the unthinking tongue” and thus open itself to blackmail (“erpressgangers,” from the German erpressen, to blackmail, but also gangs of reporters from the newspapers and, of course, naval abductors), so that “the blind lead the deaf” (68.29-34). Just as a woman who has been offended (it says) often as not resorts to violence “to life, limb and chattels” (68.36), blackmail has always “followed an impressive reputation for whispered sins” (69.04). There’s an odd reversal or even a self-undermining at work here. We haven’t, after all, been talking about a woman’s being offended (though we can easily credit that ALP has many grounds for that), but about a man’s, and about what may be a man’s acting offensively in the first place, perhaps to two women or three soldiers. Blackmail may follow on the heels of an impressive reputation, but this is a reputation that’s already tarnished, a reputation for sins. As always here, even HCE’s (and the sleeper’s) attempts to pull himself out of the mire just dig him deeper in.
The court’s attention is now directed to the wall against which the defendant was supposed to have been found slumped, or kicking. It’s also, of course, the wall from which Humpty Dumpty fell and the wall Finnegan was building when he fell. If we might find something of use in the case there, isn’t it also then a version of the mound from which the letter was scratched, and of the letter itself? “By memory inspired” [but haven’t we just been talking about that “obseen” failure of memory, of what’s hidden beyond memory and recovery?], we’re back with a “turn [of the] wheel again” (69.05), at .
And there’s a hole in the wall, as there is in memory itself: we turn to “the whole of the wall,” and are told that “There was once upon a wall and a hooghoog wall a was and such a wallhole did exist” (69.05-08). That last sentence echoes the beginning of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, with its “One upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road”: it’s that moment when an infant Stephen, who isn’t quite there yet in this sentence, begins to emerge out of nothing, out of the blank page before the road of print that will now begin to cross it and along which a moocow will come, and a nicens little boy. Once more we’ve got an image of the emergence of sense where there wasn’t any before, even just a moment ago. It’s a primeval wall, described in terms that are very like those of the second sentence of the Wake, the one that immediately immediately follows on from that moment where the torrent of words has just emerged in its riverrun from the blank space of the page. This wall seems to be from somewhere before any records we might have, any history: before Ireland, before the Garden of Eden, that “lost paladays” (69.10), and before Adam and Eve. For a moment, we seem to be back in the distant past of much of I.1, complete with echoes of the two brothers Caddy and Primus from Mamalujo’s annals (14.11-15). But there’s something odd here. What we see by this “stonehinged gate” (69.15) is the figure of HCE, who is referred to—ironically, after the last paragraph—as “the suroptimist”: not only an optimist above all, but a soroptimist, a member of a society for the betterment of women: 69.16. But he is apparently alone except for a sheep and a goat, without family, “to grow old and happy … for the reminants of his years” (69.19-20). [It’s tempting to recall Bloom’s fantasy of retiring to an imagined Bloom Cottage in Ulysses (U 17.1497-1615), a daydream in which Molly barely figures.] And the gate, ostensibly there to keep the donkeys out and “the cats from getting at the gout,” is actually “triplepatlockt on him on purpose by his faithful poorters to keep him inside probably” (69.22, 25-26). Even if it is after all for his own good, in case “he felt like sticking out his chest too far and tempting gracious providence by a stroll on the peoplade’s eggday, unused as he was yet to being freely clodded” (69.27-29), it’s his prison, his coffin: . This time, we are not looking back into the past, but, in this circular book, into the future, and the entombment of HCE that will take up much of the earlier part of the next chapter.
Now, some other incidental events that seem germane to the case and really should be mentioned, even if “by the by” (69.30). Unsurprisingly, they turn out to be versions of what we’ve heard before.
Indeed, the first one even concerns a Herr Betreffender: herbetreffend is German for “before mentioned,” der Betreffender is “the person concerned.” So this Herr Betreffender is the one we have been talking about, and all of this “ought to be always remembered in connection with what has gone before” (69.30-32). Whoever he is, in short, he’s another in the long series of fenders, of- and de-fenders. We are told he has been a commercial councillor, but now he is in Dublin mixing business with pleasure (“swishing beesnest with blessure,” 70.03-04) by covering the Earwicker case (“der Fall Adams,” 70.05) for the Frankfurter Zeitung. Someone has stolen his lambswool coat, and if it’s not returned he is threatening to claim some £500 (a monkey, 70.09) in damages. The sentences are constructed according to the standard German pattern, so that the verbs in subsidiary clauses appear at the end of their clauses. Is HCE thief or victim in this “tissue of threats and obuses” (70.12)? Is this Betreffender another version of HCE, who has also suffered a loss (of his reputation)? Or is the theft of the coat yet another crime of which HCE might just also be guilty, as if all the petty sins of Dublin are to be piled on his unfortunate head? (And if the latter, are we not then back at the former?)
The second and longer incident concerns an unwelcome visitor to the pub, a man who himself (and with just the same ambiguity as in the previous story) may again be HCE: he is, after all, “a hikely excellent crude man about road” (70.15). Already drunk, and amid loud curses and threats to “break his bulsheywigger’s head for him” (70.21-22), he demands a drink, “weathering against him in mooxed metaphors from eleven thirty to two in the afternoon” (70.32-33). While all this is happening, HCE has taken refuge in his conservatory, keeping a list of all the abusive names he was called.What is going on here, with this apparent merging of offender and defender (not to mention Herr Betreffender) into the one “fender”? Everywhere we turn, it seems, including in the paragraphs to come, whatever violence is offered HCE comes countersigned by his initials. Over and over, among the other things they do, the initials seem to serve the purpose they might in a document that’s been sent out for approval; they say, Yes, approved, this is right. It’s as if HCE is perpetually beating himself up, offering himself a violence he sanctions or even perhaps (why not? it’s so insistent) desires. At very least, even if we were to read this violence as strictly external and beyond his choice, the signature takes it over and affirms it as if it had been his choice to begin with and all along. (And that, after all, is a quite commonplace logic. No one decides to fall in love; we come into the picture just that little bit after the event, aware that we already have fallen in love, and only then affirm what’s already happened as if it had been our choice. A story of choosing to fall in love with someone at the time this actually happens, rather than affirming it after the event, is either a comedy of ineptitude, or a story of stalking.) It’s a signature, a mark: not a statement, not even a word, but somewhere on a level below that: three letters that are capable of forming many words, many names that will stand in for this inert sleeper, but rarely for very long, as this bare of the cogito is empty of consciousness and even dreams. (What Descartes describes is in this respect not the lucid transparency of a certain classical concept of consciousness, so much as that Freudian discovery, the unconscious.) The trigram ticks the text repeatedly with its bare, empty mark: here, here, here, here. None of these occurrences offers us any true and authentic content of what the sleeper is; each is simply a claim, a mark, a tick, like the notch of a tally on a stick: here, now, this, this too is marked by HCE, by . In its marking-out, the mark is not yet or no longer any more to be take as a shorthand for a character in the familiar literary and psychological senses. It’s not saying, Associate what’s marked with that character, Humphrey Earwicker, Chapelizod innkeeper weighed down by a guilt for something he may or may not have committed. It’s simply saying, Treat this as marked by the siglum, and in that it extends out a lot further than those things we associate directly with Earwicker as character. Things we wouldn’t necessarily associate with him at all without the siglum now get drawn into a network without clear boundaries. What it suggests is an uneasy possibility: the dynamic of reading that the trigram signature introduces is not the certainty that This too is Earwicker, but the question: What does marking this particular part of the text with the siglum do, what claim is it making, how is this too drawn into that network? The siglum is not a shorthand for the content of the guilt or the bearer of it, but it’s the effect and very possibility of contamination itself, the sheer restlessness and indefinite expandability of that guilt, marking and staining one thing after another on almost every page, permuted, spread out across a sentence, repeating itself over and over in a booklong typographical stammer.
We have some of these abusive names, and they follow in a long list. Tindall counts 111 of them, but that depends on how you assign the punctuation: on which of the commas are internal to a single name, and which serve to separate two names. But there might well have been more, for the list, like so much of the information in the Wake, is “now feared in part lost” (71.05).
[There would be a lot to say about lists in Finnegans Wake. This list of HCE’s names will be matched by a list of ALP’s at the beginning of I.5, the letter chapter (104.05-107.07), and a description of some of the visible characteristics of the letter itself (119.10-123.10); then, at the beginning of the next chapter, by a gigantic 13-page list of characteristics that form the first question of the quiz, to which the answer is a brief “Finn MacCool!” or HCE (126.10-139.13); and then, at the beginning of the chapter after that, a list of what “Shem’s bodily getup” includes (169.11-20), and a list of the “pure mousefarm filth” to be found in his house (183.04, 183.11-184.10). There are more.
The figure of the list is asyndeton. Lanham’s very handy (and asyndetic) Handlist of Rhetorical Terms calls asyndeton “Omission of conjunctions between words, phrases, or clauses” (25). But there’s something else going on here, in the Wake, in a reversal of that implicit chronology. With these lists, we don’t have elements that began linked and from which the links have now subsequently been omitted. It’s more useful to think of Wake lists, at least, as being prior to conjunction, to any sort of linkage. The elements of the list are neither consequential (one implying the next), nor even perhaps sequential (belonging in that order, so that this follows that and the fact that it does tells us something). That they are without explicit connection means that they have a huge number of possible connections, a number that rapidly comes to exceed vastly the number of elements in the list. If we have a list of three terms, for example (A, B and C), there are six possible ways of putting them in sequence (ABC, ACB, BAC, BCA, CAB, CBA), and three possible pairs we can make of them (AB, AC, BC). If we have a list of 111 terms, though, the number of possible sequences is around 1.76 multiplied by 10 to the power of 180: that is, a figure with 180 digits. The number of possible pairs that can be made from the list is around 1.58 multiplied by 10 to the power of 178. (For comparison, the estimated number of atoms in the entire universe is somewhere between 10 to the power of 78 and 10 to the power of 82. In other words, the number of combinations possible here is around a billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion times greater than the number of atoms in the universe. There’s not enough matter in the universe to write out every combination of two terms from this list.) A list may be minimally simple in its (lack of) organization, but in its possibilities for combination it may be unimaginably vast.
It’s a commonplace to observe that narrative is metonymic, and so too are the effects of literary character. We’re not told everything, and what we’re told stands in for so much of what we’re not. If we’re told that a character wakes up in the morning and leaves the house to go to work, we’re going to assume that they got dressed somewhere along the line. (Gilbert Sorrentino’s 1979 novel Mulligan Stew, however, has a bar where literary characters go when they’re between jobs. They spend a lot of time complaining about authors who don’t specify these things, and about the silent mortification it causes to everyone on the job when someone turns up to work naked.) Emily Bronte nowhere specifies that Heathcliff has a liver or spleen, but we shouldn’t for a moment treat him as a medical miracle. Effects of character are made up of accumulations of all sorts of small indexical details, but character is not just the sum of them, as if the more details the writer provides, the closer the character becomes to a real human being. Effects of character come also—mainly—from what happens when one combines and extrapolates from those details, into what one is not told. Leopold Bloom plays with the cat, feeds, scolds, talks to the cat: we think something we’re not told, that this is perhaps a kind and fond man. Later on in the book, as the full implications of his domestic situation become clearer to us, we can see the opening of “Calypso,” in retrospect, as a man who also wants badly to divert himself, take his mind off something he can’t quite face yet. What engages and moves us is what we’re not told, but which we hypothesise, as a work in progress, from the things we are told, as we go along. And the bare arithmetic of factorials that has fed into the crude figures above suggests that this space of hypothesis and of linking is of an order all but unthinkably vaster than the number of the details we are actually given, even when—because—there are, as in Ulysses, so very many of them, in all their richness.
One word for the characterological effects of this huge, pullulating and evanescent space of the combinatory, then: the dimension of the unconscious.]
Earwicker does not respond to the taunting, and later explains this as being out of respect for the taunter, and a hope that devotion to the holy rosary might reform him (72.17, 21-25). Indeed, after throwing a few more large rocks, the would-be assailant seems to realise “the seriousness of what he might have done had he really polished off his terrible intentions” (72.30-31) and sobering up a little, puts down the rest of the stones, turns to invective and threats of injury instead, and then, as the soft rain falls “dripdropdrap on pool or poldier” (73.17), leaves “in the moonshiny gorge of Patself on the Bach” (73.21). Patting themselves on the back may be what both HCE and the assailant (can we tell them apart any more?) have been doing in their attributions of noble motifs to themselves.
And so the siege ended, in a smattering of references to other sieges (Rochelle, Bar-le-Duc, Bergen-op-Zoom), and with one for the road (deoch an dorais).
The insistence of the trigram suggests that this assailant is now indistinguishable from the HCE we glimpsed a few paragraphs back, passed out of the story into exile by his “stonehinged gate” (69.15) with only sheep and goats for company. The stones he left remain as “his chambered cairns” (73.28), a “testament of the rocks” (73.31-32) around which sheep graze, “a cloudletlitter silent that are at browse up hill and down coombe and on eolithostroton, at Howth or at Coolock or even at Enniskerry … . Olivers lambs do we call them, skatterlings of a stone” (73.28-30, 32-33). They will be gathered back unto to him on the day when the giant—Finn, Finnegan, HCE, Arthur, the Irish themselves (“some Finn, some Finn avant!”)—”skall wake from earthsleep, haught crested elmer” (74.01-02), and the sound of “his mighty horn skall roll, orland, roll” over hill and dale (74.04-05).
In those days, his God will call to him as God called to Abraham, and he will answer as Abraham did in Genesis, “I am here” (“Add some,” 74.07: adsum, I am here), and as Finnegan did in the song, “Animadibolum, mene credidisti mortuum?” 74.08: Thanam o’n dhoul, do you think I’m dead?), and as the Finnegan of the Wake did in I.1, “Anam muck an dhoul! Did ye drink me doornail?” (24.15). There will be sounds of mirth as he pulls on his boots again.
So what state is his body in for this revival? This final paragraph is ambiguous in its reassurances. Is his liver poor? Well, “sot a bit of it” (74.13), which is both denial (“not a bit of it”) and an admission that at least some of it is what you’d expect from a heavy drinker. His brains are cold porridge, his pelt is damp, his heart is a drone and his bloodstream slowed to a crawl, his breath piffling, and his extremities are far away (if his head and body are on the east-west axis of Howth–Phoenix Park, here his hands and feet are spreadeagled to Finglas in Dublin’s northwest, Pembroke in the southeast, Kilmainham in the southwest, and Baldoyle in the northeast). Humphrey is sleeping, “in his doge” (74.16). Words mean no more to him than the soft rain that has been falling outside the sleeper’s room throughout this chapter. The final word is a stop that is also an opening out (Italian, sdoppiare).
Which we all like. Rain. When we sleep. Drops. But wait until our sleeping. Drain. Sdops. (74.17-19)